MSIM Sunday Reading is a weekly publication highlighting a current and relevant topic chosen by a professor of the Master of Science in International Management for their courses. The Franklin community gets an inside look at the coursework and specializations offered at MSIM and expert commentary on international issues affecting our world today. This week's MSIM Sunday Reading is in conversation with Clarice Zdanski, Instructor of Art History and Studio Art at Franklin. Her article emphasizes the significance of creativity, flexibility, and intercultural dialogue in the ever-changing realm of global management.
Clarice Zdanski is an artist, art educator, art historian, writer, and translator. Her academic degrees include an MA and Ph.D. in the History of Art (University of Chicago), a BFA in Painting and Printmaking (UNC-Greensboro), an Italian university degree in modern languages (IULM-Feltre, Italy), and a Diploma in Music (Conservatorio G. Cantelli, Novara, Italy). Her research work in art history, which ranges from the Italian Renaissance to art and travel in late nineteenth-century Europe and current practices in art education, has always been concerned with how art is studied and its place in society. Zdanski has published in scholarly journals and websites, and her artwork is in private collections in Europe and the USA.
In the dynamic landscape of international management, the importance of creativity, adaptability, and cross-cultural communication cannot be overstated, especially in projects that require well-coordinated teamwork. To ensure this, organizations often turn to team-building programs that are designed to increase motivation and promote cooperation, and it is not unusual for companies to include arts-based activities in their approaches to strategic and day-to-day management and leadership. The MGT 522 Visual Arts and Team Building course, part of the Master of Science in International Management (MSIM) program, enables students to hone their skills of team development in a course that bridges artistry and education in international management.
What can businesses learn from the arts?
At first glance, it may seem odd to combine such disparate fields as art, which is associated with creativity and self-expression, and international management, which revolves around strategy and organizational efficiency. However, it is precisely this special quality of art that is crucial to the intuitive, imaginative, adaptable, and resilient capabilities required of organizations in the twenty-first century, and that has led corporations, institutions, and organizations to use arts programs over the past decades to deal with employee training and organizational development needs. As pointed out by Giovanni Schiuma in The Value of Arts for Business, the arts can make a difference in management because “... the creation of value in the new millennium is tied to the recognition of the relevance of people’s experiences, emotions, and energy in shaping and influencing the quality and performance of organizations.” Consequently, engaging, energizing, and inspiring people so that this vital part of every individual might emerge and bear fruit in terms of innovation and transformation has become a major challenge for organizations today. (Schiuma, 2011)
Two decades ago, Lotte Darsø’s groundbreaking work Artful Creation: Learning Tales of Arts-in-Business, explored the connection between art and business, going beyond the obvious contexts of decoration, corporate art collections, or entertaining employees as fringe benefits, to advocate for its strategic use in team building, communication training, leadership development, problem-solving, and organizational transformation. Artful Creation encourages a shift towards a more innovative and reflective approach to management and administration, highlighting the capacity of arts-based activities to inspire unconventional thinking and novel solutions in the professional realm. (Darso 2004)
Through arts-based team-building events, artistic expression can be translated into practical solutions, effectively addressing management and administrative challenges. Transported to a realm outside their normal sphere of activity, individuals are provided with an opportunity for reflection without the constraints of work agendas, pressure from the top, or the fear of failure. They can begin to think outside the box because they are acting outside the box. (Hall 2004)
Some reflections on the work of the artist
Thinking and acting outside the box are the artist’s daily bread. However, as facilitators in arts-based activities within organizations, transporting individuals into the uncharted territory of ‘No Agenda’ can be an arduous task. In reflecting on her work, Jolanta Jagiello, workshop tutor on the Open University MBA residential schools in Creative Management, speaks of trying to “quieten the internal critic, so that our ‘Artist Brain’, the inventor, can freely associate, freewheel, make new connections.” (JAGIELLO, p. 6)
By ‘Artist Brain’, she recalls ‘right-brain’ rather than ‘left-brain’ approaches to problem-solving, and more specifically a fundamental work in drawing research, Betty Edwards’ Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain. Much more than a drawing manual, the book is a guide through a transformative journey in developing artistic skills by tapping into the brain's right - or creative - hemisphere. The exercises shift from analytical to perceptual thinking, unlocking the potential for improved representational drawing abilities through exercises and shared insights that facilitate a deeper connection with one's innate artistic capabilities. This research was taken further in Drawing on the Artist Within, which argues that drawing is a powerful tool for enabling people to tap their creativity and see problems in new ways.
I discovered Edwards’s book decades ago (first edition 1979) just after finishing my BFA. As an art instructor like her, I was fascinated by the vast majority of people who think they cannot draw or that the domain of art lies out of their reach. Although the field of drawing research has grown exponentially in the past forty-five years, I have always used many of her exercises aimed at stimulating the shift from left to right brain - or silencing the “internal critic” that keeps us from making new connections. For Edwards, the formation of this ‘internal critic’ begins early in our education, when visual art is used less in pedagogy and when the adolescent begins to develop a self-critical sense towards the ‘unrealistic’ drawings that emerge freely from the inner self and that do not conform to the rules of perspective and illusionism. The result is that the vast majority abandon artmaking altogether, never learn to see, relegate art to the realm of the impossible, and stifle creativity.
This is how arts in team building (and more generally arts in the workplace) works: in taking up drawing or other visual arts media and achieving something impossible, employees may not only gain novel insights but also begin to see the ‘normal’ world of work, with its agendas, meetings, schedules, and deadlines, as more manageable. Hence one aim of the visual arts team-building experience is to travel into this unfamiliar territory of art to look at and into ourselves to discover (or recover) the artist within and remove real or subjective barriers to generating new ways of doing things.
MGT 522 Visual Arts and Team Building is a team-taught course focusing on team building in theory and practice. After the theoretical part analyzing the impact of and how the arts can create a relationship within the corporate sphere, Prof. Zdanski, Instructor of Art History and Studio Art at Franklin University Switzerland and practicing artist, will lead the practice part as participants engage in arts-based team building exercises and projects that highlight the transformative impact of artistic thinking in addressing contemporary business challenges.
Adler, Nancy. (2006) The Arts and Leadership: Now That We Can Do Anything, What Will We Do? Academy of Management Learning and Education Journal, vol. 5 (no. 4): 486-499.
Berthoin Antal, Ariane; Debucquet, Gervaise and Fermeaux, Sandrine. (2016) Addressing Identity Tensions Through Paradoxical Thinking: Lessons from Artistic Interventions in Organizations. Management International. 21 (1): 25-40.
Darsø, Lotte. (2004) Artful Creation: Learning Tales of Arts-in-Business. Frederiksberg DK: Samfundslitteratur, 2004. English edition.
Edwards, Betty. (2012) Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain. The Definitive, Fourth Edition. New York: Tarcher.
Edwards, Betty. (1987) Drawing on the Artist within A Guide to Innovation, Invention, Imagination and Creativity. London: Collins.
Hall, Liz. (2004) The Art of Inspiration. https://www.personneltoday.com/hr/the-art-of-inspiration/
Jagiello, Jolanta. (2012) ‘The Artist Within’. London: Middlesex Business School. Microsoft Word - ‘The Artist Within’ Paper.doc (mdx.ac.uk) Accessed 08/01/2024.
Kerr, Cheryl; Darsø, Lotte. (2008) Re-conceiving the artful in management and education. Journal of Management and Organization. 14: 474-481.
Schiuma. Giovanni. (2011) The Value of Arts for Business. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.